Last month, I was lucky to be able to travel to Florida with my family for the fourth time. This was the third time I visited Disney World, and the first time visiting the USA at legal age. My family is easygoing, fun to be around, and lovers of a good time— I’m blessed! On this trip, we stayed at a rental home in Kissimmee, which is about 6 miles from Disney World. We spent one day in Magic Kingdom and one day in Animal Kingdom.
Unlike our previous two trips to Disney World, this time we did not have any little kids with us. We wanted to spend the day doing all the big rides, but also those classic rides that we have loved since childhood. I have always found, like many, that there is something truly magical about Walt Disney World. As a kid, it was the friendly characters and beautiful scenery that made you feel like you were in a real-life fantasy world. As an adult, the magic was the seamlessness of the whole operation— the number of staff, the innovation and engineering, and the sheer size of the park. And how much money must flow through there every single day.
In this way and others, Disney World is not the same for a group of adults as it is for a group of adults with children. When you’re with kids, you’re focused on their enjoyment, their reactions to the rides and characters, and making sure the kiddos are having the times of their lives. As adults, you’re reminiscing, having fun, and looking for a thrill. I am here to tell you some of the tips and tricks I picked up for enjoying Walt Disney World as an adult.
Side note: I have never stayed in the Walt Disney World Resort accommodations. All of my Disney World experiences have been day trips.
First things first: download the app. This trip to Disney was drastically more efficient because of the My Disney Experience mobile app. Incredibly, the entirety of the Disney World Orlando Resort has free wifi access, so don’t worry about not having Internet access. Through the app, you can book your tickets, book your FastPass+ experiences (you get three free FastPass+ with ticket purchase), and check out maps and live wait times. You can even book restaurant reservations, order from the gift shops for pick up, and view and order your PhotoPass photos that you have professionally taken throughout your day. It’s fantastic.
Now you have to pick your parks. If you have time and can afford it, of course you’ll want to visit them all. But, for a lot of people, myself included, that is super unrealistic. The main parks are Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. As I mentioned, this time we visited the first two. Epcot has a lot for adults, including amazing cuisine, beautiful simulation rides, world pavilions which are visually stunning and educational, and in the fall of the year, they have a food and wine festival which sounds like a blast. Hollywood Studios has a good mix for kids and adults, with some super thrilling rides like Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster and the Tower of Terror. This article will focus on Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom is my all-time favourite Disney park. Before I go on to talk about it, I need to address the animal ethics issue that always lingers at the back of my mind. I had a pretty good discussion about the ethics of ‘animals as entertainment’ in my post about Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka, but essentially, I do believe that using animals for entertainment is exploitive. However, Disney has a huge conservation fund and conduct a lot of important research— they’ve brought several species out of risk for extinction. As with Udawalawe and other reserves, tourism is fundamental in funding research and conservation efforts. It is a double-edged sword, a lose-lose & a win-win situation, depending on how you look at it. So, I still enjoy and support Animal Kingdom park, as it is the lesser of many evils from an ethical perspective.
Now that that is out of the way, what should you be sure to check out in Animal Kingdom? The park is divided into five areas: Africa, Asia, Pandora, DinoLand USA, and Discovery Island. The cultural aspects of the park are phenomenal— so much care and research has clearly gone into how the cultures are portrayed (this is also controversial, there is a big appropriation debate, but we won’t go there). They even have Tiger Beer imported from Asia, which pretty much made me feel like I was back in Sri Lanka. Speaking of beer, make sure you have your passport or a photo of your passport, or they won’t sell it to you. At $7-$9, you can expect a beer to cost you about the same as a sports event or concert. They also have awesome cocktails and sangria, which you can carry with you around the park. While catching a little buzz can make your day even better, you might want to save your alcohol drinking until after the big rides— trust me.
Once you enter the park, head straight into Pandora—The World of Avatar. This is the newest section of the park and it is truly incredible. The scenery (and engineering behind it) will blow you away. Your first ride of the day should be Avatar Flight of Passage. You’ll want to FastPass+ this one. And you honestly might want to do it again. And again. This is hands-down my favourite thrill ride of all time.
Next stop: Africa. This is where you’re able to do a walking tour through animal enclosures or catch a safari through the reserve. This is the controversial area of the park, but I would argue that it’s also the most educational and beautiful. Don’t miss the silverback gorillas. They are truly spectacular. In the Africa section of the park you may also be able to catch a live show. Festival of the Lion King is a treat, I highly recommend.
Grab lunch on Discovery Island, browse through the gift shops, and get a photo in front of the massive Tree of Life. Keep your eyes out for parrots and other brightly coloured birds flying overhead. I would also recommend grabbing a meal at Restaurantosaurus in Dinoland USA. The burgers are deadly. There’s not much else in this area of the park for adults, and don’t even waste your time on the Primeval Whirl unless you like whiplash and vomit.
Asia is the last section of the park you’ll want to check out. Perhaps this is where you should grab your beer and a pretzel. Kali River Rapids is fun but not a must-do if you don’t have a lot of time. FastPass+ Expedition Everest. This is an awesome roller coaster that you don’t want to miss and is the perfect ride to cap off your day. Don’t forget to check out your photo on the way off the ride for a good laugh!
My main piece of advice for Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom: don’t rush. This is a beautiful park with incredible feats of engineering and attention to detail. There is a vibrant cultural atmosphere that will transport you from Orlando, Florida to another corner of the world. Take your time. Filter out the screaming kids. Sip your sangria. Enjoy it.
What do you think of these tips? Did we miss anything? We would love to hear your suggestions and Disney hacks. Comment below or reach out on social media, @twowildtides on Facebook and Instagram. We love hearing from our readers!
Have a magical trip!